The Traditional Children's Games of England Scotland
& Ireland In Dictionary Form - Volume 2

With Tunes(sheet music), Singing-rhymes(lyrics), Methods Of Playing with diagrams and illustrations.

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498                  MEMOIR ON THE STUDY OF
characteristic compared with the line games. These, as I have already pointed out, are games of contest, whereas the circle games are games in which a homogeneous group of persons are performing a ceremony belonging entirely to themselves. The ceremony is of a religious character, as in " Oats and Beans and Barley," or "Old Roger," dedicated to a spirit inti­mately connected with the group who perform it, and having nothing belonging to any outside group. The position of the marriage ceremony in this group is peculiar. It has settled down from the more primitive state of things shown in the line marriage games, and has acquired a more social and domestic form. Except in the very significant water custom in " Sally Water," which I have suggested (ii. pp. 176, 177) may take us back to perhaps the very oldest stage of culture, all the games in this group are evidently of a later formation. Let it be noted, too, that the circle has deep religious significance not entirely absent from the customs of comparatively later times, among which the singing of "Auld Lang Syne" is the most generally known.
But in speaking of matters of religious significance, it is important to bear in mind that we are not dealing with the religion of the Church. Everywhere it is most significant that marriage ceremony, sacred rite, social custom, or whatever is contained in these games, do not take us to the religion of to-day. Non-Christian rites can only be pre-Christian in origin, and these games therefore take us to pre-Christian religious or social custom, and this is sufficient to stamp them with an antiquity which alone would certify to the importance of studying this branch of folk-lore.
To take now the dialogue or individual form of game, the best example for my purpose is " Mother, Mother, the Pot boils over" (vol. i. pp. 396-401). Here the chorus has disappeared ; the principal characters tell the story in dialogue, the minor characters only acting when the dialogue necessitates it, and then in dumb show. This is an interesting and important game. It is a complete drama of domestic life at a time when child-stealing and witchcraft were rife. A mother goes out to work, and returns to find one of her seven children missing. The game

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